One Killed, Several Injured During Garment Factory Protest

One woman was killed, several others injured and more than two dozen people arrested, including Buddhist monks, after violence erupted Tuesday morning in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district between protesting garment factory workers and security forces.

Two police vehicles and at least two police motorcycles were torched after hundreds of garment workers from the SL Garment factory attempted to march to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in the city, but riot police blocked their route. During the clashes, six police officers were trapped in a room inside the Stung Meanchey pagoda.

Rice vendor Eng Sokhom, 49, who was not taking part in the protest, was shot and killed during the clashes, rights workers said.

The slain woman’s son, Vong Panha, 21, told reporters at the hospital that his mother, who worked near the Stung Meanchey pagoda, was a bystander when she was shot in the chest during the clashes.

A Cambodia Daily journalist witnessed at least four police officers firing their pistols in the direction of the protestors.

Dr. Sun Eang, speaking at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, said Eng Sokhom was dead on arrival at the hospital and that her body had been placed in the morgue.

Am Sam Ath, head of monitoring at local rights group Licadho, confirmed that the dead woman was not involved in the protest.

Chan Soveth, monitor for local rights group Adhoc, said police arrested at least 27 people, five of them monks.

During the clashes, which happened in waves, riot police fired rounds of 38-mm rubber baton rounds, live bullets and tear gas. Protesters threw rocks, as did the police.

A Cambodia Daily journalist also witnessed a man who appeared to have been shot in the leg by police gunfire.

The workers at the SL Garment factory have been on strike since early August to demand a pay raise and the removal of plain-clothes military police officers who are providing security at the factory, as well as the reinstatement of a work schedule that includes half-hour meal breaks.

The SL factory makes clothing for both Gap and H&M.

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